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-   -   A taste of N. California (https://www.fodors.com/community/united-states/a-taste-of-n-california-711701/)

Joe18 Jun 8th, 2007 08:05 PM

A taste of N. California
 
While my wife and I have each traveled to California on business, we've never spent time traveling in the state. We're thinking of devoting two weeks to getting acquainted with N. California this September or October. Fly into the SF area and head north, get a taste of the Napa or Sonoma Valleys, visit Big Sur, go to Yosemite, and then. . . . On the other hand, maybe another itinerary. We're walkers--not hikers--who like scenery, art, history, hotels that aren't too expensive (ca. $150) but have character. I like wine but pretty much anything will do; my wife doesn't drink. Suggestions appreciated.

JayZee Jun 9th, 2007 12:36 AM

October is a great time to travel Northern CA. The weather is the best on the coast & in the mountain areas you may catch the fall colors. On your way north from SF drive on Hwy 1 to Pt Reyes National Seashore, many scenic areas for walking. Continue along the coast to Bodega Bay & Jenner. Try the Jenner Inn www.jennerinn.com

Continue east on Hwy 116 & north towards Healdsburg, one of my favorite towns in Sonoma county. Take Alexander Valley Rd to Hwy 128 to Calistoga, another favorite. Continue your tour south towards Napa. Try the Silvarado Trail Rd instead of traffic on 29.

From Napa get on Hwy 80 at Truckee. Continue on Hwy 267 to the north side of Tahoe. We like to stay at http://tahoecrown.com/1 with units right on the water. Drive along the west shore (Hwy 89) and stop at Sunnyside http://www.sunnysideresort.com/ or The Beacon Bar & Grill. http://www.camprich.com/

October is the best time to visit this area. Take walks down to Emerald Bay, or Angora Lakes or Fallen Leaf Lake.

Continue on Hwy 89 thru Woodfords, Markleeville to 395. Drive south on 395 thru Conway summit to Lee Vining. Take a slight detour to June lake area (very scenic in the fall) then backtrack up to Hwy 120 to enter Yosemite NP.

After Yosemite continue east on Hwy 120 to Hwy 49. Drive north on 49 stopping at the old mining towns of Angels Camp, San Andreas, Jackson, Sutter Creek & Plymouth. In Amador County you may want to try some of the wineries in this area.http://www.amadorwine.com/ Try the Zins at Karly or Story Winery.

Stay north on 49 to Placerville and stop at Sutter's Mill (site of the first gold strike) and ending up in Auburn. From here head west to Sacramento and SF on Hwy 80.

Hope this helped & enjoy your stay in a beautiful part of CA.

Ida101 Jun 9th, 2007 02:37 AM

You can drive more north and visit "Avenue of the Giants" and/or Redwood NP with the big sequioa trees.
Also - weather permitted - drive (and walk) through Lassen Volcanic NP.

kleroux Jun 9th, 2007 05:26 AM

I like the information and route JayZee gave you. I would suggest you visit Armstrong Woods as you pass through Guerneville. Beautiful Red wood trees in a little known state park. Spend the night in Healdsburg. Visit a few wineries just to get the feel of them. This is a prime tourist season here, so book your hotel early. You can find motels in Hbg. too. There are lots of posts in this thread with info on this area. I always suggest people check out what is available in private guest/vacation rentals too.

WFT Jun 12th, 2007 04:03 PM

We just returned from a trip - SFO directly to Elk/Mendocino 3 nights and Sebastopol 4 nights. MANY state parks up HWY 1 near Mendocino--good for walks and beauty. Russian River Gulch was not an easy walk, but the waterfall at the end was great. Puddin' Place, just north of Ft. Bragg, allowed us to walk the coast and see tide pools. HWY 128 NORTH of Elk to Boonville offered a 20 mile or so drive through Redwoods and then some wonderful wineries - Navarro was great! I wish we'd stayed a few more nights at the Sandpiper House Inn in Elk. More than $150/night, but SO WORTH IT for the garden and view of a cove. Great breakfast. I hope to post a trip report soon.

Joe18 Jul 29th, 2007 01:10 PM

Thanks to everyone who replied to my original message--you've helped us set an itinerary. We're beginning to firm up plans. We'll get to SF on Sept. 15th, spend a couple days there, then head north for a few days, then to Yosemite and back to the coast for Big Sur. We're planning a total of two weeks, and any advice for our slightly refined plans will be greatly appreciate. We're also keeping our eyes out for Marriott properties, since we can get friends and family rates there. Again, many thanks for all the help so far. We've made no reservations so far.

Shanti Jul 29th, 2007 02:11 PM

One more beautiful area with plenty of short walks - and it's right along JayZee's itinerary, would be Sonoma Coast State Park.

But you have to be careful along the coast (at this state park & anywhere else along the coast, particularly in the fall) there's unexpected waves & a strong current, and people have been swept out and drowned.


iamq Jul 29th, 2007 02:30 PM

Be sure to stop at Goat Rock State Park (one of the Sonoma Coast State Beaches Shanti mentioned) a few miles before Jenner on Highway 1. It is where the Russian River meets ocean and there is usually a large number of seal lions hanging out on the point of land where the river meets the ocean. It is a beautiful place to take a walk and breath the sea air.

razzledazzle Jul 29th, 2007 03:54 PM

As you are pondering travel THIS fall-The part about you not having reservations is of concern. September and October are the months we have our best weather. Also, the harvest is going on in Sonoma and Napa which makes us even more popular. Yosemite lodging books a year in advance within the park-unless you get lucky and someone cancels.

I think all the suggestions about where to tour up here are great, yet do get busy and nail down some lodging reservations. Pt. Reyes is one of my favorite places on the planet. Plan your visit to include a trip out to the lighthouse-which is closed on Tuesday & Wednesdays. Between 2:30-4:00PM, a ranger is on hand to tell the history of the lighthouse and it's spectacular Fresnel lens. Be prepared for the 300+ stairs down and back up. Plenty of walkable beaches and trails in PR as well. The Salmon Creek Beaches north of Bodega Bay (especially Portuguese Beach)
also fit the walkable beach category. iamq's suggestion about Goat Rock is a must see ! You can also enjoy the view of the sea lions while dining at River's End in Jenner-
http://www.ilovesunsets.com

You mentioned Marriot properties-the town of Sonoma has the really lovely
Lodge at Sonoma-it's one of their Renaissance properties. Napa (the town)
has a standard issue Marriot. Santa Rosa (just south of Healdsburg) has
a Courtyard in a good location. San Francisco has many choices.

Good Luck !
R5

J_Correa Jul 30th, 2007 09:05 AM

Yes - nail down your hotel reservations as quickly as you can. Availability, esspecially in Yosemite, will probably shape much of your itinerary for you :)

jtrandolph Jul 30th, 2007 03:56 PM

Do you get rates at JW Marriott? If so, definitely look at it for San Francisco. It is on Mason and Post, just 1 block from Union Square, and is a lovely hotel. There are also at least two ordinary Marriotts. One is on Market Street and there is another, I believe, at Fisherman's Wharf.

Joe18 Aug 4th, 2007 07:03 PM

Thanks for the advice. I've made plane reservations and am working on hotels now.

dagwood102 Aug 8th, 2007 02:09 PM

After reading several reports for your itinary we have planned a trip from the U.K. to San Francisco,we'll be at one of the joie de voire hotels for 4 days then head north(pick up a rental car on the last day)then head up to Jenner,from there across to Yosemite (2 days) then to Moterey for the jazz festival...do the big sur/carmel/monterey/hearst castle and then back to San Francisco,cannot seem to get the hotel l wanted in Yosemite,but they said the Wawona.....has anyone stay here?

Joe18 Aug 9th, 2007 06:56 PM

A friend in Palo Alto recommended the Wawona, and I made reservations last Sunday. Then they had only rooms without baths (and WCs), but the woman I spoke to was very helpful. She said to call back beginning two weeks before our reservations. That's when people begin cancelling.

dagwood102 Aug 13th, 2007 11:39 AM

Change of plans Joe..... now going to fly into SF,go without a car for 4 days then drive up to Mondocino then bck down to Yosemite,stay at Hounds Tooth Inn,Joe look this up really great right ups on tripadvisor..there for a few days then across to Monterey for the jazz festival/big sur/ carmel/hearst castle...then back to SF for what we have missed

iamq Aug 13th, 2007 07:43 PM

dagwood,

You're probably already aware of this, but the B&B you booked will be at least an hour's drive from Yosemite Valley. I'd start calling as soon as you can to check on cancellations at lodgings in the park, but at least you have a back-up if that should fail.

Have a great trip.

leavingsoon Aug 13th, 2007 07:56 PM

I'm with Ida101 who suggested the Big Trees/Avenue of the Giants. You will not find anyplace like it on earth.

Drive North on 101, stopping for a break in Healdsburg, but continuing through to Humboldt County. The walks are all very easy and flat, but the scenery is spectacular, even right alongside the road.

Even if you just stay over 2 nights, (giving you time for stops on the way up) you will have seen something truly unique in the world.



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